Newfoundland; Economic, Diplomatic, and Strategic Studies

By R. A. MacKay | Go to book overview

II
RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS1

THE forty years after Waterloo were momentous years in the history of Newfoundland. In 1815 it was still officially regarded as a fishing station, control of which by Whitehall was essential to the commercial and strategic interests of the Empire. By 1855 it reached the status of a self-governing colony within a new laissez-faire, decentralized empire. The shackles of the old empire had not yet been completely struck off, but the new political invention of responsible government was to prove to the people of Newfoundland, as to those of other colonies, a stout instrument for the enlargement of political and economic freedom. Space forbids treatment of the changes in detail; we must be content with noting only the main trends.

The Napoleonic wars had hastened the change from fishing station to settlement colony. Impressment of sailors for the Royal Navy, shortage of labour for the fishing fleet, and pre-occupation with the war, virtually brought to an end the annual fishing voyages from British ports and the British fishery fell almost entirely into the hands of those resident on the Island. The French fishery was crippled because of the hazards of crossing the Atlantic and fishing in waters more or less under control of the Royal Navy and because of the British occupation of St. Pierre and Miquelon. Newfoundland settlers began moving in on the "French Shore".2 The New England fishery, which had expanded rapidly in the earlier years of war, declined sharply when Congress shut off trade with Europe in 1807 by the Embargo Act, and after

____________________
1
By the editor based on material prepared by Dr. Saunders and Professor Fraser.
2
For explanation of the term "French Shore" see following chapter.

-265-

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